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“She Had a Desire to Live I Have Never Seen”–Rescue Worker Describes Pulling Woman Out of Rubble 7 Days After Haiti Quake

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We speak with French search and rescue worker Jean-Philippe Oustalet, of the group Rescuers Without Borders. He talks about rescuing a twenty-five-year-old Haitian woman who was buried under rubble in Port-au-Prince for seven days. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: When we were broadcasting yesterday in the morning next to the Port-au-Prince airport, right in the property of the airport, we were surrounded by a sea, a map of the world, of search and rescue teams, their national flags blowing in the wind. We saw Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Britain, France, South Africa. We walked over to talk to the group that was closest to us, right behind us, right near Costa Rica. It was the French rescue workers.

We talked to the head of the group. They’re called Rescuers Without Borders. His name is Jean-Philippe Oustalet, who described the remarkable rescue, that happened just two days ago, of a twenty-five-year-old Haitian woman, an accountant, who was buried under the rubble in a store for seven days. He describes what happened.

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] Yesterday, we found a woman of twenty-five years old. We localized — we found her at 12:00 in the morning. We left at midnight. And it took twelve hours to get her out.

    AMY GOODMAN: And where was she? Which part of Port-au-Prince?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] She was in a supermarket for seven days. She was in a place where there were three stories. She was about a meter away. We could touch her hand, but it was too tight. We couldn’t get her out.

    AMY GOODMAN: You could talk to her?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] We had to consolidate it with support, so it wouldn’t crush her.

    AMY GOODMAN: You could talk to her?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] Yes.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was she saying to you?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] She’s an accountant. She had come to buy food, when it fell down on her.

    AMY GOODMAN: She did not have food or water?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: No food, no water. No food, no water. [translated] No. Incredible. She had a desire to live. I’ve never seen that.

    AMY GOODMAN: What did she say to you? When you could touch her, she could talk, but you couldn’t yet free her.

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] We told her that we could get her, and she was saying, “Thank you.” But we told her we weren’t there for the thank yous.

    AMY GOODMAN: How did it make you feel?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: [translated] I’m a search and rescue specialist, which has come for twenty years to all the catastrophes. [in English] It’s my better day, because I have found a lot of cadavres. [translated] I found a lot of cadavers. [in English] And when you found one life, my best day.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your best day? Your best day?

    JEAN-PHILIPPE OUSTALET: My best day, after — as securist, it was my — I have three best day: when I know my wife and when my two childrens was born and, after, yesterday.

AMY GOODMAN: Jean-Philippe Oustalet, head of Rescuers Without Borders, the team that had come to Haiti. Yes, one of the best days of his life, he said, in this horror show that is the earthquake that has rocked Haiti to the core.

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